Next year, farmers in Colorado will be able to fix their own tractors and manufacturers like John Deere will have to provide them manuals and diagnostic software to help them do it.Farmers across the country have long been fighting for the right to repair their own equipment. Modern tractors are full of electronics that have given manufacturers like John Deere the ability to lock farmers out of the repair process. Now, thanks to The Consumer Right to Repair Agriculture Equipment Act passed, farmers in Colorado will be able to do what they’ve done for generations: fix their gear themselves.
State of Repair is Motherboard's exploration of DIY culture, device repair, ownership, and the forces fighting to lock down access to the things you own.
The Colorado state House approved the bill last February. It cleared the state Senate on Tuesday in a vote 46-14. Now governor Jared Polis has 10 days to sign it into law and a spokesperson has said he will.John Deere and other companies have lobbied hard against laws like this. Modern tractors have so many electronic components that manufacturers can lock farmers out of repairing their own equipment. It’s given John Deere and others a de-facto monopoly on the repair of modern equipment. It promised farmers it would let them repair their tractors, but it lied. The consequences of this have been far reaching and bizarre. Some farmers learned how to hack their own tractors. The used tractor market exploded, with farm equipment manufactured before the advent of computers selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars. There’s a class action lawsuit against John Deere that’s accused the company of running a repair monopoly and accusations that it’s violating EPA guidelines. One farmer in Missouri said the company wouldn’t let him repair his tractors until he filed a complaint with the FTC.Now, in Colorado at least, farmers will soon be able to repair their tractors. “Everyone who eats will benefit from this law. Farmers will have more timely options for repair, which will make it easier to use high-tech products which, in turn, enable more productive farms,” Gay Gordon-Byrne, executive director of Repair.org, said in a press release. “It will also help align the industry of agriculture with other products using technology-enabled products such as motor vehicles, trucks, wheelchairs and cell phones. We should all be able to fix everything, everywhere, all the time.”The right-to-repair movement has gained traction in recent years. The FTC formally adopted the policy in 2021, and Joe Biden backed it up with an executive order a year later. Laws that would force manufacturers to make it easier for people to repair their own electronics, cars, and appliances are making their way through the local legislatures across the country. Companies like Apple, which were once famous for making phones difficult to repair, have started to sell parts and manuals to consumers.